In the Boot Camp Laundry Room

By Nestor Walters

after Sharon Olds 

The boy and I face the same wall 

streaked with old, white, lead paint. 

We hang, suspended from the same rod 

meant for drying coats from winter rain. 

Y’all two better win The Cup, Sergeant said, 

inside her fishbowl office where she 

watches the open bay barracks, but y’all 

better not get caught in the laundry room 

doing pull ups. She speaks with a raised 

eyebrow and half-turned head and 

even without the Combat Action Ribbon 

on her chest, we know from 

her ponytail, tight without 

a single stray strand, that she is not 

to be messed with. Our bleeding 

palms grip, aching muscles 

strain, our boots mirror black 

Nestor WALTERS was born in Bangladesh, raised in Greece, and served in the US Navy as a corpsman and SEAL. He now studies math at Stanford University. Find him at nestorwalters.com.